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Some information about Korça and Pogradec

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Some information about Korça and Pogradec

According to Campus Albania that made a research in Albania, Korça is rated as the best city in the country for the quality life. The standards that indicate the classification are infrastructure, environment, verdancy, services, food, economical life level, economical opportunities, and cultural events.

Korça is a proud and cultured town high in the hinterlands of southeastern Albania, Korça (pronounced KOR-cha) is a world away from Tirana, and is indeed close to Greece in more than one way. Locals cross the border to nearby Kastoria and further afield to Thessaloniki and Athens for the latest fashion, religious festivals, education, jobs and family visits, and many of them are fluent in both Greek and Albanian. Korça is known for its artists, its tradition of seranades, and good food. Despite its small size, it has quite a few great sights, including an excellent icon museum, a bustling bazaar, a fantastic Byzantine-era painted church, a top-rate beer brewery and a great beer festival. In the immediate surroundings, Pogradec has a lovely lakeside setting and Voskopoja and Dardha make for great daytrips in the mountains.

How ISCiK participants will experience the city?
Boulevard Republika is a good street for a stroll, and on summer evening participants will be joined by hundreds of locals doing their xhiro promenade when the street is closed off for traffic. It’s lined by old villas with decorative metal railings, flower gardens and fragrant linden trees. Participants will take the time to explore the old streets away from the modern boulevards, very close to the place where ISCiK will take place. Our young students will find typical old cobbled streets between Blv. Gjergi Kastrioti and Blv. Republika, though the prettiest streets are directly behind the cathedral.

Participants will explore Churches and Mosques as cultural monuments, the Archeological sites, Tumulus (Tuma e Kamenicës) Kamenica village, 8km south of Korça. A prehistoric burial mound used between the 13th to 6th centuries BC has been partly excavated and is now open to the public, accompanied by an excellent little museum (quite rare in Albania) with an instructive DVD and English-speaking staff that can guide visitors around the site.

ISCiK will organize a relaxed half day, visiting the museums of Korça, where our volunteers will provide a guide to explain and translate ISCiKers.

Archaeology Museum (Muzeu Kombëtar Arkeologjik), Bratko Museum of Oriental Art (Muzeu Bratko), First Albanian School (Mësonjëtorja e Parë Shqipe, Muzeu i Arsimit), Medieval Art Museum (Muzeu Kombëtar i Artit Mesjetar), Sotir Studio, Vangjush Mio Museum (Muzeu Vangjush Mio).

Other spots that ISCiK participants will enjoy in Korça is visiting the Ottoman Korça Bazaar, Birra Korça Brewery, as Korça’s industrial pride, founded in 1928 and the students will attend the tour factory.

Rinia Park, The Youth Park is a lovely green expanse along a hillside just out of town and is rich of events. During the International Student Week in Korca, our participants will participate in cultural, culinary events that take place in Rinia Park.

ISCiKers in the free time can also visit the two most outstanding villages of Korça, Voskopoja and Dardha.

Voskopoja is a Balkan oddity; a village that was once a bustling town and Balkan cultural centre. Voskopoja was founded in 1338 in an isolated and defensible location. Also known as Moschopolis to Greeks and Moscopole to Vlachs, it grew steadily to become one of the larger urban centres in the Balkans, and may have had up to 30,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. The town profited greatly from trading along the shortest land route between Istanbul and Venice, and was also a major centre of Orthodox culture (despite the Ottoman occupation) with 22 churches, an Academia, library and dozens of workshops producing crafts, books (from the Balkans’ first printing press) and religious artworks, including icons. For a while it was even the largest town in the Balkan region. Ottoman campaigns in the late 18th century spelled the end of Voskopoja’s glory years. Voskopoja’s end finally came in the 20th century, when battles in World War I and partisan warfare during World War II destroyed most of the town. Now only seven churches, a handful of houses and some old cobbled streets still remain.

Mention Dardha to anyone in Korça you’ll instantly get a smile, so good is the reputation of this small mountain village. Lovelier than any other village in Albania, Dardha is set in the Morava mountains, 20 kilometers southwest of Korça, at 1344 meters above sea level and has about 50 permanent inhabitants. The village is sheltered by the Shën Pjeter (St. Peter) and the rugged Guri i Vjeshtës (Autumn Rock) mountains and is surrounded by flowering fields, orchards and forests, making it an ideal base for hikes in the surroundings. Founded in 1600 by Orthodox Christians escaping from Ottoman conversion campaigns, Dardha is famous for felt processing (incorporated in the local black/red folk dress), Dardha had 500 houses in the early 1900s. Nowadays, the village consists of a few narrow cobbled streets winding between stone houses, many of which are decorated with carved symbols and retain their traditional flagstone roof tiles. Dardha has few specific sights, though it’s worth entering the small Shën Gjergj (Saint George) church for its old icons. Scattered along the streets are several public fountains and wells spouting natural mineral water, believed locally to cure all manner of ailments. Drink sulpher-spiced water from the aptly named Uji i Qelbur (‘filthy water’) spring if you have stomach problems. Apart from the pretty streets and mountain views, the local cuisine is a reason to visit; Dardha is famous for its huge fire-baked lakror onion and tomato pies, the unusual side dishes like snails, mushrooms and corn flour pie, all best washed down with the local raki pear liquor. The annual village festival is on Shën Maria (St Mary’s; 16 August), when the road is clogged with people returning to the ancestral home for the day, and everybody dresses up in their best folk clothes and joins in the religious rituals and traditional dances.

Pogradec is the destination where the Participants will enjoy a one day trip. The city was chosen for the wonderful setting on the shore of

magnificent Lake Ohrid, Though its history goes back to the Iron Age, the town has a modern appearance. With its long sandy beach, fresh air and various sights in the surroundings, Pogradec can be visited en route to Korça or Ohrid. The word Pogradec is of slavic origin, meaning ‘below the small town’, and the scant ruins of a 5th-century castle high up on the hill indicate there was once an Illyrian settlement there.

Modern-day Pogradec is pleasant enough for a stroll. There is a newly pedestrianised street with old houses that show something of the fishing village that was once here. Nearby, the modern concrete Ebu Bekr mosque has an unusual double-balconied minaret. Further east, the Church of the Resurrection settles, the St. Mary Dormition church can be found in the Lagja e Toplecit area. A sandy beach fringed by a well-tended park stretches for over a kilometre along the lakeshore from the centre.

ISCiK participants during their one day trip to Korça will also visit the delightful park of Drilon, set around the ponds where crystal-clear water originating from Lake Prespa bubbles up from the side of Mali i Thate (‘dry’) mountain. Usually visitors feed the ducks and swans and rent a boat for a quiet paddle around.

Lakes of Pogradec
Pogradec overlooks Lake Ohrid, the deepest tectonic lake in the Balkans (298 metres) and one of the oldest lakes in the world, formed 4 million years ago. Set at 695 metres above sea level and shared with Macedonia, one third of the 358 square kilometre surface is Albanian. The lake is fed by various rivers (including an underground river from Lake Prespa popping up at Drilon and exits to the north in the Black Drin. Ohrid is home to various endemic species of plants and animals, including the koran, an ancient and very tasty variety of trout, the Ohrid sponge and various mollusks.

Local activities during ISCiK 2012

Beer Fest near Rinia Park. The biggest event of the year in the city, with tens of thousands of people enjoying beer, traditional food, beer games, music and performances.

Climate and Time

Korçë has a transitional Mediterranean climate (or continental Mediterranean climate) with high temperature amplitudes. The hottest month is August (25 °C (77 °F)) while January (2 °C (36 °F)) is the coldest. The temperatures in Korçë generally remain cooler than the western part of Albania, due to the middle altitude of the plain in which it is situated. Temperatures can still reach up to 40 °C (104 °F) or higher on occasions.

Korça lies in the central European time zone CET (GMT+1 hour). The summer daylight saving time is from the end of March to the end of October (GMT+2 hours). 

The official currency is LEK
Exchange rates (per 20-06-12)

1 = 138 lek; £1 = 171 lek; US$1 = 110 lek

Purchasing Power
How far does your euro, pound or dollar go in Korça?

Espresso 50-100 lek

Glass of local beer (0.5 litre) 200 lek

Mineral water (1 litre) 50 lek

Mars bar 50 lek

Hamburger 100 lek

Public transport ticket 30 lek

100km by bus 400/250 lek

Emergency telephone numbers
Police 129
Fire Department 128
Emergency 127    082/42972    082/42555

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